2008-12-19 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Complementary Alternative and Integrative Medicine
Commentary By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES These terms are synonymous with good health. Achieving good health or optimum health means selecting suitable approaches to your individual situation so as to maximize your outcome with minimum intervention, the gentlest restoration to health and the fewest side effects.

The field of Complementary and Alternative Medicine carries the acronym CAM. It is composed of a diverse group of medical and healthcare systems, practices and products that are not currently part of mainstream or conventional healthcare.

Complementary medicine is used along with conventional medicine to enhance its effectiveness or eliminate side effects. An example would be the use of probiotics while undergoing a course of antibiotic therapy. Probiotics will maintain a balance of the "good" intestinal bacteria and prevent diarrhea, urinary tract infections or other unwanted side effects of antibiotic therapy.

Alternative medical systems are those that are used instead of allopathic medicine in cases where there are no treatments available. For example, in the case of viral syndromes where your doctor may tell you that it is a virus and there is

nothing to do for it, you may use herbs like elderberry, research of which indicates strong antiviral activity. The product on which the research was conducted is Sambucol and is readily available in health food stores. Recently, many cough and cold medications were

taken off the market and parents were cautioned against using them for children under six-years-of-age. Studies found that honey is more effective for coughs than many of the medicines on the market. Homeopathic remedies for colds and coughs are extremely effective in reducing duration and severity of symptoms as well as preventing their progression and their return. An added bonus to the use of homeopathic remedies is that their action is seen in the mental and emotional symptoms as well. Irritability, behavior and mood changes when sick are signs that this deeper acting therapy is indicated.

Integrative medicine refers to practices that are used along with conventional or allopathic medicine. Any of the safe and effective systems or products will qualify. The only criteria for use of integrative medicine is knowledge and willing cooperation among practitioners.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) the major types of CAM are:

*Whole Medical Systems: Homeopathy, naturopathy, Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine.

*Mind Body Medicine: Meditation, guided imagery, prayer, art and music therapies.

*Biologically Based Practices: herbs, foods, vitamins.

*Manipulative and Body Based Practices: Chiropractic, osteopathy and massage.

*Energy Medicine: Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Qi Gong.

*Bioelectromagnetic-Based Therapies: Electro magnetic field therapies.

A recent government study indicated that more than 38 percent of people were using CAM. Another study indicated that 50 percent of medical doctors were dissatisfied with the practice of medicine. In a world where possibilities abound, it behooves us to become informed and educated about complementary and alternative medicine and to decide how to integrate it into our own lives. Spiraling health costs, expensive testing and prescriptions are limiting our choices. Often, people have little or no insurance coverage. Traditional insurance doesn't cover any CAM practices.

Self care for simple, self limiting conditions is fast becoming the Smart Care© of the future. The Center for Disease Control recently reported that 1 in 9 children and teens use herbal supplements or some other form of alternative medicine such as Echinacea for colds and fish oils for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder. For adults, pain was the most common reason they sought CAM, and chiropractic and massage therapies topped their list.

"I definitely see a trend," said Michael H. Cohen, an attorney who specializes in CAM for doctors who practice it. "Some facet of conventional care is not satisfying and they're looking at other options."

Health Freedom is about information, education and access to choices in healthcare. Health Freedom is also about understanding those therapies that are covered under your insurance, those that are not and how to pay for it all. Budgeting for your health is SmartCare©. Creating a realistic Flex- Spend or Health Savings Account with conscious forethought is a prerequisite to ensuring that you and your family will have freedom of choice in accessing whatever form of healthcare that you need and desire.

Health & Harmony Wellness Education is now offering SmartCare classes, workshops and consultations to provide you with the tools to create a healthy lifestyle, free of disease and rich in quality of life.

SmartCare© First Aid and CPR workshops will begin in January, 2009. Class locations will be in Belle Harbor, Long Beach and NYC.

SmartCare© Acute Care workshops will follow. For further information and registration, please call 718-634-4577 or e-mail me at askDrNancy@aol.com.

May The Blessings Be!

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